It came as no surprise to me that our We Need to Talk episode that revisited and expanded further on the Black History month conversation was lively and enlightening. I always prepare a few questions for the guests in the (unlikely) event that the conversation stalls or becomes circuitous. As such, and as promised, I started the conversation with a revisit into why my guests each said “no” to my last question back in February.
Micha answered first and pointed out that there is still “a lot of work to do” for the black community and went on to say that if the leaders of the 60s Civil Rights movement were alive, they would expand and include other minority groups such as the LGBT community and Women’s rights. Her thought was that marginalizing different groups did more harm than good especially since these groups were often advocating for the same general rights.
Shermichael jumped in and brought up an interesting point comparing the demands of the Black Panthers and Civil Rights leaders of the 60s with the Black Lives Matter movement today. He pointed out at all three groups, despite their differences, were advocating for the same three general changes: improved education, improved economic opportunity and policing. When he took time to compare the numbers and studies related to those three areas, Shermichael found that the numbers from the 60s compared to today had essentially stayed that same or gotten worse. Based on these findings, Shermichael argued that there is no possible way that Civil Rights leaders would be proud of the Black community’s progress in America. I found it disappointing to learn that despite the changes that our country has undergone in the last 50 years, especially pertaining to racial issues, that the statistics seem to have plateaued. What are the causes of this stasis?
From there we turned to Liz and our Facebook Live questions. I have to say, and I mentioned this on the show- the questions posed by the audience were some of the best we’ve had- both thoughtful and critical. Larry pointed out that he felt that “Obama set the black man back by 50 years” suggesting that “we are more at odds today than ever before”. Both Micha, Shermichael and myself agreed that it is naive to blame one single man for today’s environment. Shermichael further pointed out that MLK would also be disappointed by the where the Hispanic community is as well as the poor, rural white communities. He went on to something I had never heard or considered which I found to be very interesting- that African-Americans are often criticized for continuing to support the Democratic party despite the continued challenges that the black community faces. Poor, rural white communities typically vote Republican and yet they also continue to struggle. However, there is very little, if any, criticism of poor white communities supporting the Republican party.
Another good question came from Nathaniel who asked the panel: “What has Black Lives Matter done for the community?” because we are “still fighting Jim Crow Laws”. Micha took time to address this question and pointed out what I think is valuable and fair criticism of BLM (and other activist groups in today’s political environment). She feels that there is not real pointed goal of the movement or issue that they are trying to address- there is no real agenda. Shermichael and I both agreed with Micha and I pointed out that I feel the same way about the Feminist movement.
The conversation continued and I barely had time to ask my remaining questions for the panel- as such we are thinking that this could or should become a monthly topic on the show, what do you guys think?